BGSU graduate named Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year
Mike Nutter ’96 honored with award for exemplary work as president of the Fort Wayne (Ind.) TinCaps
By Nick Piotrowicz
As a Bowling Green State University student, Mike Nutter ’96 was all but certain that he would spend his entire career in professional basketball.
A sport management major at BGSU who spent part of his youth in Napoleon, Ohio, Nutter accepted a professional internship that, unbeknownst to him, would shape the rest of his life.
Nutter experienced the daily life inside minor league baseball and loved it – so much so that he made it his career.
Three decades later, Nutter is now the president of the Fort Wayne TinCaps and the 2022 recipient of the Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year, a honor that recognized Nutter’s commitment to the all-encompassing world of minor league baseball. He was presented the award at the Winter Meetings in San Diego.
“I fell in love with minor league sports despite the fact I was absolutely sure I was going to work in the NBA, all for one team, of course,” Nutter said. “Thirty-one years later, it’s been all minor league sports.”
Nutter said he “loved every bit” of his time with BGSU, which included working for the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars during summer breaks.
The internship allowed him to experience the behind-the-scenes parts of the minor league sports industry. He spent one summer on the grounds crew tending to the field and another working concessions before moving onto front-office tasks like selling tickets, crafting promotions and aiding with game operations.
After graduating from BGSU, Nutter quickly latched on to baseball, working for the Brevard County Manatees and Nashville Sounds before moving on to Fort Wayne, where has lived since 1999.
The variety of minor league baseball – in which Nutter said no two days are ever the same – was a major reason he has enjoyed going to work every day.
“I saw a lot of people at the major league level who only got to do one thing,” he said. “But for me, whether it was when I graduated or now, I wanted my hands in a little bit of everything. It’s so many different full-time jobs tied into one, and not just in my title now as the team president.
“There are so many things that it’s really limitless.”
The Executive of the Year Award, given to just one executive from the 120 affiliated clubs across the four levels below the major leagues (High-A, Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A), recognized Nutter for his leadership and strategic vision as team president, but also for the club’s outreach efforts in the Fort Wayne community.
In 2022, the club held several mental-health-related initiatives, including a Mental Health Awareness Night at the ballpark in which the TinCaps wore special jerseys that were then sold at an auction for the Fort Wayne chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Additionally, the club sold “Strike Out the Stigma” shirts to benefit NAMI Fort Wayne and turned its efforts inward, increasing the number of mandatory days off for full-time staff, increasing pay for hourly employees and creating a full-time position that focuses on making workers feel appreciated in helping the club operate day-to-day.
While the games and promotions are often what bring people to the ballpark, Nutter said he believes it’s a club’s obligation to have an impact beyond the scoreboard.
“It's way bigger than wins and losses,” Nutter said. “I was honored with this award, which is really cool, but we’re going to be judged by our impact on the community, not wins and losses or fireworks or anything like that.”
During Nutter’s tenure, the club opened ParkView Field in 2009, which is consistently ranked among the top fan venues in Minor League Baseball and has played a key role in luring more than $1 billion in investment to downtown Fort Wayne.
Under Nutter, who has been nominated for Executive of the Year four times in his career, Fort Wayne has earned some of Minor League Baseball’s top honors, including the 2015 CommUNITY Champion for charity efforts and the 2016 Organization of the Year Award.
The TinCaps, the high-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres during Nutter's entire tenure, has been the before-they-were-stars home to prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Peavy, Trea Turner, Corey Kluber and 2011 World Series MVP David Freese.
Single-A always will appeal to the hardcore fan hoping to see the big-league regulars of tomorrow, but the essence of minor-league baseball goes beyond the game, Nutter said.
“If you’re a huge baseball fan and prospect junkie, awesome. If you don’t really care about baseball, that’s awesome, too,” he said. “Minor league baseball is so much bigger than what happens on the field, and it’s my job to help make this a better place to live.”
Updated: 03/21/2023 09:30AM